The Driving Force Behind Our Quality of Life

1428555803-brief3-traffic3This week my family found ourselves a single car family. I do recognize that there are many families who exist every day as single car families and the struggles we faced this week are just another part of their normal lives. However, that aside, we still felt quite clever for figuring out how to get everyone everywhere they needed to be this week. See, we hatched a plan for our family to get up Wednesday morning, pack everyone into the car to drive my husband to work, then drive our one working car back home to do all of the things. (And yes, it did take us two days to figure this out, and you can giggle at us since this work flow is probably the most common solution for single car families). There is, however, a small difficulty with this brilliantly simple plan. See, we live in Gwinnett County…my husband is currently working at a client site in Vinings.

There are now three types of people reading this post:

  1. People who don’t live or work in the metro-Atlanta area, and are unfamiliar with the way Atlanta interstates are laid out. They read that sentence and are thinking, “So what?”
  2. People who don’t live or work in the metro-Atlanta area, but they know how Atlanta interstates are laid out (or they looked at a map). They read that sentence and are thinking, “That seems like a pretty direct shot.”
  3. People who live and work in the metro-Atlanta area. They read that sentence and are thinking, “Doh, y’all are screwed!”

The day came for us to implement our brilliant plan, so we left the house early (to “beat” rush hour), because we know that we’ll be riding with the traffic going in. Thankfully, our traffic sensing GPS directs us to the “fastest” route. Now, looking at the map, you’d think that route would be down I-85 and across I-285, but those of us in the metro know that’s just not the case. The GPS predictably sent us on the route with 6 bonus miles! This took us down I-85, all the way in to the top of the connector, and back up I-75 to I-285. More importantly, we had to repeat the “bonus mileage” journey to return home “against” traffic.

Atlanta-mapFor those keeping score, this is what our morning looked like:

  • We left the house at 6:30am
  • Total trip mileage should have been a little over 70 miles
  • Average interstate speed limit is in the 60 mph range
  • We just made it back to my eldest child’s first event…and it started at 9:30.

That’s nearly three hours for a roughly 70 mile journey with half of it being a “reverse commute.” Keep in mind that this was just our experience with morning rush hour (fortunately, my husband had a coworker bring him home that evening). Having to execute the roundtrip commute only served to shine a light on the quality of life issue that we face every day in the metro Atlanta area. The reality of an hour and a half commute for a thirty mile trip means that parents miss t-ball games and swim meets. It means that families don’t get to sit down to a meal at a kitchen table as a unit, or if they do, their children have to wait until 7pm or 8pm to eat. It also means that we’re losing three hours of productivity a day, productivity that could make our businesses more successful or our lives fuller.

The only people I’ve ever found who can identify with this madness are those who have lived in Los Angeles, but here in Atlanta we seem to accept this as a frustrating way of life. I hear lots of clamoring for more lanes on the interstates, new roads to divert thru traffic away from Atlanta, and other such suggestions. Those things have to happen, but realistically, they are not enough. We have that bill from this session that starts to address maintenance, now can we please talk about congestion relief?

P.S. – If you want to be a part of that conversation, come on out to the Wild Wing Café in Suwanee tonight at 7pm…the Gwinnett Young Republicans will be “Drinking and (Talking About) Driving”

We Hereby Resolve…

Republican district conventions were held across Georgia today. This cycle is the first time I’ve ever participated in this process, and it was a rather eye-opening experience for me.

The various speakers were pretty much what I expected.

The elections were uneventful.

And then there were the resolutions. Oh, the resolutions.

I understand the importance of expressing our shared belief and affirming our common principles, however, today’s brush with the resolution process has left me wary of the entire concept. Nearly every resolution from both the committee and the floor was a neatly wrapped bundle of hate and anger. I get it, there are problems in our government, but don’t y’all realize that no productive conversation ever began with, “this policy is brainwashing inspired by Satan”?

Here’s the thing: every angry issue has a positive solution. It is possible to offer opposition to an issue by presenting a good idea to fix it. For instance, compare these two (completely absurd) mock resolutions:

“WHEREAS comic sans is a worthless typeface.
WHEREAS the use of comic sans makes any document appear to have been created by a toddler with a marker.
WHEREAS it is generally agreed that no serious individual would ever use comic sans.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider removing the typeface ‘comic sans’ from all computers designated for use by government officials.”


“WHEREAS Garamond is an aesthetically pleasing typeface.
WHEREAS the nature of the conservative is to conserve resources.
WHEREAS when printed Garamond uses less ink than other typefaces.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider using Garamond as its exclusive typeface for all official government documents.”

So, at the end of the day, both resolutions express the desire to remove the possibility of comic sans being used by the Georgia State Government. One shouts into the wind how horrible everything is, and the other positively supports shared principles.

Now why does this matter? Our resolutions are the very public statements of our shared belief as a party. When the world only sees the first type of resolution, we become the people who are always complaining but have no solutions. If we want to be perceived as people who have some answers (or at least ideas) to solve the problems we’re facing, then we need to use our collective voice to advance those ideas.


Happy Tax Day?

photoByPurpleslogI started trying to write about taxation and the role of government. At least five different posts have begun and been scrapped. Each one of these has devolved into, “y’all…people…why?!?!”

First, I tried to understand and process logical arguments for a system of progressive taxation. I was seriously looking at playing devil’s advocate, but when I encountered a serious argument that progressive taxation encouraged people to earn more money because, “more overall income is necessary to reach one’s ultimate income goals if a higher proportion is paid in tax.” Following the rules of logic, this argument actually makes sense in a really depressing, Machiavellian way. It also ignores human nature. As an example, Average Joe gets a raise at work. He runs home to tell the family and celebration ensues. The next payday comes and to Average Joe’s dismay the amount on the check is smaller than the previous one (spoiler alert: the raise pushed him up into the next tax bracket). If the above premise is true, then Average Joe would react with a, “golly gee, I guess I just need to work harder so I can get another raise.” Can we take a poll of how many people believe this would be Average Joe’s reaction?

Next, I approached the argument by attempting to justify the legitimate roles of government. After itemizing those things that rightfully should be governmental functions I realized that it’s only a tiny fraction of the things that our taxes pay for. In lieu of having to argue Every. Single. Government. Agency. I decided to shift to a different topic.

Then I looked at what entities have the power to tax. We pay taxes to the Federal government, the State government, local governments. With the exception of a handful of purely Federal programs (like Social Security, for instance) most of what we pay to the Federal government is sent right back to the states for them to manage the actual department. As an example: muh roads! Roads are built by states. Even the Federal Highway System. The Federal government doesn’t award contracts to repave a highway. However, the Federal government gets my dollar, trims that bad boy down (paying various Federal officials wages and departments operating expenses), and then sends an adorable little fraction of my dollar back to the State of Georgia so that we can maintain and build roads. There are many other redundancies throughout the government services layers, too many for a little blog post discussing tax day.

So where did this all wind up? It seems trite to add another voice to the chorus that we’re paying too much in taxes and there has to be a better way, and yet, those are very applicable choruses. It’s better, perhaps, to take a step back and look at the reasons we aren’t having real discussions about the psychological impact of taxation methodology, or the proper role of government, or duplicative services and departments. Without even broaching the subject of philosophical differences on the role of government, we need some agreement, outside of the rhetoric, that our bureaucracy is not serving the needs of the people. Once we reach that agreement, we have to start modernizing the government services we need, create a more efficient means of delivering them, and eliminate everything else.

Priorities and the Transportation Disconnect

Anyone who has followed this legislative session knows there’s lots of talk about Georgia’s transportation. Forget the gridlock, congestion, and lack of transit options in our most populous regions, we’re struggling just to keep the roads paved and the bridges useable. I’m not going to delve into the details, but if you need the back-story I’d suggest checking out the transportation section of, they’re eyeball deep in this issue.

Now, I’d love to agree with the idea that rhetoric and posturing are enough to solve our transportation issues, especially since our legislators are so skilled in those disciplines, however, the roads won’t be paved with the speeches by our lawmakers. If we are to trust what our legislators say, then their words must be reflected in their actions. Today’s Senate proceedings provided a rather stark display of how those reflections get distorted. Here’s what passed out of the Senate today:

The budget (with regards to transportation):

  • The “fourth penny” from motor fuel taxes goes into the general fund (not to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT))
  • New debt proposed to pay for additional budgetary needs.
  • Service current GDOT Debt.

Senate substitute for HB 170:

  • New “user” fees
  • Converts the motor fuel sales tax to an excise tax (note the first bullet from the budget…these two things cannot coexist)

Therein lies the problem, the budget and the transportation bill don’t account for each other. The budget spends money from the general fund that will go away if a transportation bill restructuring the motor fuel tax is passed. Moreover, we spend tax dollars to service current debt, and the Senate’s solution is to add debt?!? To that point, take a quick look at this chart, it is the recommendation for next year’s GDOT budget (paying special attention to the 14% in the 2 o’clock area):


Y’all…maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like this is a classic case of wanting to have the cake and eating it too. Either funding GDOT at a high enough threshold to maintain our infrastructure is a priority or it isn’t. Seems to me, with what the Senate passed today, that it isn’t.

Don’t increase the debt liability of the department charged with maintaining our roads when the current debt load is already an issue.

Don’t spend the “fourth penny” on the justice, education, or medical systems if the intent is for those dollars to go to the roads.

And don’t tell me that you believe we have a transportation crisis if GDOT is, at best, fourth on your priority list.

Dear Legislature:  You need to get right with Jesus, and the conference committee is the perfect time to do it.

In the Interest of Introductions

Hey y’all! I’m Mere. (It’s pronounced like the female horse…also, the first half of Meredith). This is a small introduction, just to give you a frame of reference for me.

So, I am drafting this post, using pen and paper; in a wing place; during karaoke; at closing time (actually, the KJ just announced that they would usually wrap about now, but he’d let the last ten people sing…those would all be our group); with my husband, two children, and about ten friends. That’s how I roll.

My philosophy. I suspect that I’m what a 1960’s hippy would look like in modern society. I think personal choices are just that, personal. People should be responsible for the decisions that they make…without the need for some great, governmental authority to permit it. (One day I’ll entertain y’all with my thoughts about how our incessant need to legislate everything is to the detriment of a lawful society). The generally accepted term for this philosophical thinking is libertarianism (please note the little “l”). I also generally believe that a free society cannot exist without a moral code. As such, I’m good with the community ostracizing people who adhere to something other than the moral code.

Currently I identify with the Republican Party, but that’s mostly because I do not identify with the Democratic Party, and I understand the realities of the existing two party system.

So, that’s me…you can find more from me on Twitter (when I bother to actually use Twitter) @merepagejones and I hope you enjoy all that Southern Indeed has to offer!